Agape Latte program provides spiritual sustenance with dessert

COLUMBIA—The media center at Cardinal Newman School took on the air of a spiritual coffeehouse on May 9.

About 100 students crowded in, sat around the room, and enjoyed dessert and drinks while two people performed on guitar and ukelele. Cardinal Newman alumni Jeff Armbruster spoke about the importance of stewardship and other themes from his book “Live Humbly, Serve Graciously: Reflections on Baptism, Mission and Service.”

Agape Latte is a new monthly program designed to give  students an informal environment in which to learn about religious faith. It started several years ago at Boston College. Paige Miller, 17, suggested it to school officials after attending a leadership event at the college in summer 2016.

Photos by Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss: Jaxon Kopack, a sophomore at Cardinal Newman School, helps Callie Matthews, also a sophomore, as she sings and plays ukulele during an Agape Latte program May 9.

“What appealed to me is that the program is about the intersection of faith and daily life, and it connects people of all different faiths,” Miller said. “At Cardinal Newman, we have students who are Jewish and Buddhist as well as Christian, and this is a chance for all of them to relate and talk about God.”

Miller said speakers discuss how God’s love has changed their lives, a useful message for teens dealing with the stresses of high school.

“We learn that people we look up to have gone through things and moved past them, and it shows you are not alone in your struggles,” Miller said.

Agape Latte was originally designed for college students, but Miller worked with organizers in Boston to adapt it for a high school setting. Cardinal Newman was the first high school in the nation to start it and now is one of two schools nationwide that use the program.

Other speakers this year included John Roth, a coach and guidance counselor; and Sister Eileen Quinn of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, who chairs the school’s math department.

Armbruster’s talk followed the Latte theme of showing how God’s love and religious faith work in daily life. The 1964 Cardinal Newman graduate spent 37 years working for the U.S. Geological Survey and trained people in teamwork and leadership. He now spends much of his time giving spiritual talks at churches around South Carolina and Georgia.

Armbruster said he was motivated to write his book on stewardship after hearing Blessed John Henry Newman’s prayer, “The Mission of My Life”, recited during his 50th class reunion two years ago.

“As soon as I heard that prayer, I knew something profound had touched my heart,” he said. “I leaned over and told my wife something important had happened.”

He started thinking about how God had worked in his life and felt called by the Holy Spirit to focus on how to serve and love God by serving others. He reminded the students that humility is the way to overcome the sin of pride.

“We have to be servants to others because we become the functioning mouthpiece, the hands and feet of Christ to everyone we serve,” he said. “The foundation for all humility is love. To be humble is to empty yourself for the good of someone else.”

Top photo: Cardinal Newman students enjoy their “spiritual coffeehouse” as they listen to speaker Jeff Armbruster.